Your commute to work ain’t got nothing on Curt Warburton’s trek to Sydney, Australia for his UFC 127 bout against Maciej Jewtuszko.
First, the lightweight prospect drove two and a half hours from his home in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, England to Manchester Airport. Then it was an hour flight to Heathrow, followed by flights to Bangkok and then Sydney, which clocked in at 12 and 10 hours, respectively. Yet you won’t hear any complaining from Warburton.
“I went last year with Mike (Bisping) for his training camp, so it should be okay,” he said. “I can’t see it being a problem. At least I’m getting out and seeing places. Plus it’s nice and warm over there.”
If you’re wondering how a native of cold and rainy England can have such a warm and sunny attitude about what isn’t an easy trip, consider that Warburton’s used to being on the road, taking the three hour drive to the Wolfslair Gym in Widnes every week to train. It’s a labor of love to say the least, yet what makes it more bearable is the fact that in the gym at the moment are a group of fighters, including UFC 127 card mates Michael Bisping and Tom Blackledge that are going through the same thing he is.
“We’re all in the gym together and it makes the gym a bit busier and a bit more of a laugh,” said Warburton. “If it’s just me in the gym fighting on a show, then everyone’s just on me all the time – you have to do this, you have to do that. It takes a bit of the pressure off if there’s a few people on the show and we all go through the same stuff.”
“As soon as we get on the mat, everything’s serious and we train serious,” he continues. “I live three hours drive away from the gym so I’ll come down on a Monday and live in the gym all week with a few other lads. As soon as training’s finished, we’ll all go for some dinner or we’ll make some dinner in the kitchen and we’ll just have a bit of a laugh waiting for the next session. It’s really good and we are like a bit of a family here.”
And as the old saying goes, steel sharpens steel, so having a group of UFC vets in the gym can only strengthen each fighter’s chances for victory in a little over a week’s time. Warburton’s assignment is Poland’s Jewtuszko, an exciting battler who made a significant impression on fight fans in his lone WEC bout last August when he knocked out noted striker Anthony Njokuani in just 95 seconds. Warburton hasn’t seen a lot of his opponent, but he has seen enough to get a read on him.
“All I’ve seen is what’s on Youtube,” said the 30-year old Brit of Jewtuszko. “And he’s very unorthodox and unpredictable. He’s a southpaw and I keep getting southpaws for some reason and I hate them. (Laughs) But I’ve just got to go out there and do a job. I’m gonna stand and trade with him and see what he’s got. I’m pretty strong for my weight and if he starts causing too many problems with him being too unorthodox, I think if I get him down, I can’t see him getting back up.”
“From what I’ve seen of him, he doesn’t know what he’s doing himself until the last minute,” Warburton continues. “Jumping scissor knees, jumping scissor kicks, spinning elbows. With him being so unorthodox, he leaves himself open and his guard’s down, so he’s there for the taking, but I have to go in range really tight because he could pull something out from nowhere. But if it comes to the point where we go into the clinch, I think I’ll be able to take him down quite easily.”
It’s a confident outlook from a fighter with just eight pro fights, but Warburton has earned that right, not only on the UK scene with a 2007 win over fellow 155-pound prospect Ross Pearson, but with a gutsy effort in his UFC debut last October against seasoned veteran Spencer Fisher. It was a toss into the deep end for “The War”, but he won the first round against Fisher and almost submitted him before running out of gas in the second frame en route to a three round decision loss. Regardless of the final outcome, Warburton showed that he belonged.
“I had a few things go wrong in training camp and we were deciding whether to pull out or not, but with it being my first time in the UFC and it being such a big opportunity, I didn’t want to pull out,” he explains. “I still thought I could win the fight, and the first round was going really well, but I gassed. I took a lot out of it though, and with him being such a great fighter, knowing that I could cope with him reasonably well until the last round, it gives me a lot of confidence going into this fight.”
Jewtuszko, at 8-0, has a similar level of experience on paper, but where Warburton may hold an edge is that he has lived through the first-time UFC jitters and also got a master class in high level lightweight fighting from a long-time contender in Fisher. You can’t put a price on such an education.
“He was experienced,” said Warburton of Fisher. “He knew when to pick the pace up and stuff like that. He knew how to control and when to put pressure on, and I learned a lot there. It was the first time in the big arena as well, so I might have had a bit of nervous energy. I felt okay, but you never know, and hopefully I’ll go into this fight a bit more relaxed.”
Despite the nerves, Warburton conducted himself like an old pro early on against Fisher, and it was an impressive showing from the former semi-pro football (soccer) player who started MMA in the off-season five years ago just to stay in shape.
“I picked it up really easy because I was rolling about with lads that had been doing it six, seven months and I was tapping them out with stuff, but I think I was just using my strength to be honest because I really didn’t know anything,” he said. “I got a fight a few months later and after winning that it just went from there. I really got my big break to come down to the Wolfslair and train a year and a half, two years ago.”
In 2010, Wolfslair team members Warburton, Blackledge, Rob Broughton, and Aaron Wilkinson were brought in to compete in the UFC. Broughton submitted Vinicius Queiroz at UFC 120, Warburton lost to Fisher, Blackledge will debut at UFC 127 against Anthony Perosh, and Wilkinson acquitted himself well on The Ultimate Fighter 12 but was cut after a TUF12 finale loss to Cody McKenzie. Needless to say, in the stacked lightweight division, having your hand raised is even more imperative if you want to stick around. Warburton plans on being one of the last men standing.
“I’ve had a good training camp for this fight, so hopefully I can put a good performance on because I want to be fighting in the UFC and the only way to do that is to win.”
Warburton Ready for His Second Chance
"I’ve just got to go out there and do a job. I’m gonna stand and trade with him and see what he’s got."